The primary challenge photographers face in creating a realistic experience for their audience is the limitation of a two dimensional medium.
In order for a photograph, or any two dimensional art, to appear realistic, the viewer must appreciate a sense of depth.
Think back to the magic of elementary school art class when you first appreciated the difference between a house drawn with merely a square and a triangle versus the same house with the addition of converging parallel lines.
The more sense of depth and dimension we create in our images, the more likely the viewer will connect with a scene and commit to its exploration. Subjects will seem more lifelike and take greater ownership of their place in the scene. The result is a more compelling image overall, and one that is much more likely to express your intent.
Depth can be enhanced through a variety of tools and techniques, both in camera and post processing, through the use of light, lines, color, focus, and perspective. Today, I share with you one post processing technique I find immensely helpful the use of textures and overlays.
Textures and overlays are a wonderful tool for adding depth and dimension to an image. Adding these layers in varying blend modes can subtly or not-so-subtly alter the hues and luminosity in a way that enhances your vision. In this video, I show you how I use both a light flare overlay and a two-tone texture to create a more three-dimensional experience for the viewer.
This image is of my two daughters playing on the basketball court of our pool one afternoon last summer. It was a lovely, albeit short-lived, moment with late afternoon sun illuminating them from above and behind. When I sat down to edit this image, I most admired the interplay between the warm orange of the girls’ skin, the basketball, and the play ball against the cool concrete and the green foliage. I also planned to reintroduce the light I had experienced that was captured by the camera. With this in mind, I approached my edit with the intention of creating a dramatic, high contrast image highlighting the girls against their environment.
Applying the principle that warm tones and cool tones collaborate to create a sense of depth, I selected and applied a two-tone texture to the image. The texture’s warm orange center accentuated the warm colors of my subjects’ skin as well as their balls. The cool blues and greens swirling around the texture’s center enhanced the cooler foliage in the background and concrete in the foreground.
This simple addition created more dramatic tonal contrast between the subjects and their surroundings resulting in a much more distinct foreground, middle, and background. The addition of the texture had the added benefit of adding greater visual and tactile interest to the concrete, enhancing the existing lines leading the eye through the frame and to my subjects.
The addition of the light overlay, with its orange hue and rays, added additional dimension. The rays served as additional leading lines, directing the viewer’s eye to the subject, while the orange haze created a deeper sense of space between the girls and their background.
Watch the video to see just how simple such dramatic changes can be.
Processing Tools Used:
Lightroom: “Rear Window” from the Cinema presets.
Photoshop: “Clean Workflow” from The Organic Set.
Light Overly: PBK Flare 16a from the Lightscapes collection.
Sky Overly and Texture: The sky overlay (Splash) and texture (Murmur) are from Jessica Drossin’s collections.